Playing their penultimate game of the 2021-22 season, the shorthanded Pacers battled, but came up short for the second straight time against Joel Embiid and the 76ers.
Embiid tallied 41 points and 20 rebounds as the Sixers (50-31) beat Indiana for the second time this week, sweeping a home-and-home set with a 133-120 victory in Philadelphia.
The loss was the ninth straight for Indiana (25-56). The Blue & Gold will close out the season on Sunday in Brooklyn.
Oshae Brissett led seven Pacers in double figures on Saturday, tallying 20 points on 3-of-5 3-point shooting and seven rebounds. Tyrese Haliburton added 19 points and nine assists, while Isaiah Jackson tallied 17 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks.
Fresh off dropping 45 points on Indiana on Tuesday, Embiid picked up where he left off against the Pacers. The All-NBA center scored Philly's first six points on Saturday. The Sixers added to their lead via a James Harden layup, Tobias Harris dunk, and Danny Green 3-pointer before Embiid scored again to cap a 15-3 Philadelphia run to start the game.
"They set the tone early and we were fighting from behind all game," Haliburton said. "That kind of feels what it's been like for a few games."
The Pacers finally got a little offense thanks to rookie big man Jackson, who converted an and-one alley oop off a dish from T.J. McConnell and then knocked down a three on the very next possession.
But Philadelphia's big three of Embiid, Harden, and Harris combined for 28 points (including 11 at the free throw line) in the first quarter as the hosts took a 37-23 lead into the second.
28-year-old rookie Gabe York, signed to a two-way contract by Indiana on Thursday after a stellar season with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the G League, made his NBA debut late in the opening frame. York subbed in with 1:26 remaining in the first quarter, missed a three on his first possession, but drew a foul the next trip down the floor and made one of two free throws for his first NBA points.
York added three more points after converting a layup plus the foul with 8:24 remaining in the ensuing frame. But five straight points by Tyrese Maxey following York's bucket pushed the Sixers' lead to 20 for the first time, 53-33.
The Pacers trailed by 21 late in the half, but closed with an 11-2 run over the final three minutes of the second quarter. Duane Washington Jr. scored seven in that spurt, while Haliburton added the other four. The Blue & Gold headed into halftime trailing just 66-54.
The Sixers wasted no time building their lead back up after the intermission. Maxey scored six points as Philadelphia opened the third quarter with a 10-2 run.
But the Pacers mounted a charge from there, answering with a 17-7 spurt of their own. Haliburton's floater cut the deficit to 83-73 with 6:12 remaining in the third quarter.
They continued their run after a timeout, with Jackson showing off his dexterity while converting a lob from Buddy Hield and then, after an Embiid turnover, Brissett knocking down a transition three to make it a five-point game.
Embiid halted the surge by drilling a three from the left wing. Harden's layup on the next Philadelphia possession made it a double-digit lead once again. Indiana was back within seven following Washington's jumper with 32 seconds left in the frame, but Maxey hit a late three to push the Sixers' lead back to 100-90 entering the fourth quarter.
The Pacers twice cut the deficit to eight in the opening minutes of the final frame, but each time Embiid answered with a jumper on the other end. The latter time sparked a 9-0 Sixers run that stretched the hosts' lead back to 117-100.
Indiana never got back within single digits, as the 76ers held on down the stretch to secure a 50-win season.
Embiid hit two free throws with a minute remaining to surpass the 40-point mark. The big man finished the night 14-for-17 from the field, 2-for-2 from 3-point range, and 11-for-15 from the free throw line.
"He's making a strong push for MVP," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said of Embiid's dominance "...We haven't seen a guy quite like this, really in the history of the league, that has this kind of power and skill and ability to score on all three levels really effortlessly. He's an amazing player."
Washington scored 15 points off the bench for Indiana. McConnell, playing his second game after missing over four months due to wrist surgery, tallied 12 points and six assists.
Hield finished with 12 points and Terry Taylor added 10 off the bench for Indiana.
Harden collected 22 points and 14 assists for Philadelphia, while Harris and Maxey added 18 points apiece.
Inside the Numbers
Brissett scored 20 points for the the sixth time this season and the fourth time in his last eight games.
The Pacers shot 52.6 percent from the field, their 20th game this season making at least half of their shots.
In his NBA debut, York finished with seven points on 2-of-5 shooting, one rebound, two assists, and one block in 15 minutes.
Embiid inched closer to wrapping up his first career scoring title with his 13th 40-point game of the season. He entered the day averaging 30.4 points per game, with Giannis Antetokounmpo his closest competition at 29.9 points per game.
You Can Quote Me On That
"Just stopped fouling. I think that was our biggest thing — keep them off the free throw line. That's an art for them that they have pretty well down pat as a team. So we just had to figure it out, show our hands as much as possible." -Haliburton on the keys to the Pacers' second-half rally
"He did a terrific job today. He got his first foul 15 seconds into the game. That was a concern, but (he) adjusted well. He only had two more fouls and was guarding a guy who can well be the MVP...He's learning a lot. He put a lot of pressure on the rim with his rolls and his rebounding I thought was good." -Carlisle on Jackson's performance
"I feel like playing on the floor with him, it opens up the whole offense. The way I get on the rim and the way he gets downhill, it sort of goes hand in hand." -Jackson on having quick chemistry with McConnell despite his four-month absence
"Oshae was really good tonight and he's had a lot of strong games this year. The last game he had kind of a rough night shooting the ball, but tonight he jumped into it, hit a three, did a lot of good things with running, cutting." -Carlisle on Brissett
"It's exciting. Obviously to get your first bucket, a guy whose journey's been all over the place, it's exciting for him to get that first bucket. I thought he played well." -Haliburton on York, who was presented a game ball in the locker room after the game
Stat of the Night
Embiid recorded his third 40-point, 20-rebound game on Saturday. All three of those games have come against the Pacers, but Saturday was the first time he accomplished the feat in a win. He had 40 points and 21 rebounds against the Blue & Gold in Philadelphia on Dec. 14, 2018 and tallied 41 points and 21 boards against Indiana in the bubble in Orlando on Aug. 1, 2020.
- With Saturday's victory, the 76ers secured the season series against the Pacers for the second straight season and the third time in the past five years.
- With the loss, the Pacers will have the fifth-best odds or better in the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery on May 17. They could still tie Oklahoma City for the fourth-worst record in the league if the Pacers lose in Brooklyn and the Thunder win at the Clippers on Sunday.
- Pacers big man Jalen Smith was unavailable on Saturday due to a sore left groin.
- Nate Hinton, who along with York signed a two-way contract on Thursday, had to leave the team after entering the NBA's health and safety protocols.
The Pacers head to Brooklyn for their final game of the season to take on Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Nets on Sunday, April 10 at 3:30 PM ET.
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TV: Bally Sports Indiana - Chris Denari (play-by-play), Quinn Buckner (analyst), Jeremiah Johnson (studio host)
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